UG Addict
Join date: Aug 2002
1,272 IQ
Hey again,

For our 2nd weekly lesson I'm going to cover a technique that can be very
easily used with pick sweeping, either to come into a pick sweeping riff or to come out of one, and is also obviously great by itself as well. This technique is asked about quite frequently. We've already had some good tutorials on it and it's used quite comonly by many. This week I'm going to delve into great detail about alternate picking.

Alternate picking is the practice of playing notes one after another while alternating between an upstroke and a downstroke. This allows the guitarist to play different notes at tremendous speeds. While you can't get quite as fast as with pick sweeping you also don't have quite so many restrictions. You can stay on one string for as long as or little as you like.

There are a couple pre-requisites to consider before devling into any technique excersises:

1. The Pick

The first thing to consider when picking is your pick thickness. You need a thick pick that's not going to give very much so that you can manipulate the strings with ease. I suggest using at least a 1.5mm pick, however, I - and most other guitarists I know - prefer a 2.0mm.

When you hold your pick you don't want it to be at a straight, 90 degree angle towards your guitar. You want it at a slight angle facing downwards, or towards your pick guard.

2. Wrist Support

When using alternate picking, to get your speed, you're going to be using your wrist more than your fingers to move the pick. You need to support your wrist properly. I suggest resting your wrist directly on the bridge of your guitar. Without the proper support you won't be able to move as fast and you won't have the endurance either.

Now let's get to some examples and excersises!

The first excersises is on a single string and can be used as a build up for
a solo

   v ^ v ^ v ^ v ^  v ^ v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v 

The "v" represents a down stroke. The "^" means to use an upstroke.

Make sure to start off slowly and make sure that you play each note crisp
and clean. Don't rush to speed right away. Speed will come naturally. Speed
means that you have mastered it. That you can do it so well that you can do it
fast. If you try and play it really fast right away you will make mistakes and
sound like crap. Just play it over and over and cleanly. You will gradually
work up your speed.

The next excersise we will use two strings.

   ^  v  ^ v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v
                                         and so on...
Make sure that you pay attention to the upstrokes and down strokes. In the
first example we started on a down stroke. In this example we start on an

Do the same thing with this excersise. Play it over and over slowly and
cleanly. Work your way up speed-wise.

The next excersise is a variation of the previous one. Working on different

   ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v  ^  v
                                         and so on...

The last excersise we're going to do today is to show you some shredding
styles with alternate picking. In this excersise we're going to scale
3 octaves of the minor harmonic scale in A using alternate picking.

   v ^ v ^   v ^ v  ^   v ^  v  ^   v  ^  v  ^   v  ^  v  ^   v  ^  v  ^   v

A good excersise to try after this is to the same shredding excersise as
above but going back down.

Where to go from here?

Keep working on all these excersises. Don't try to get fast right away. That
will come with time. Make up your own excersises. Traverse scales with
alternate picking. Write your own alternate picking licks.

Also see the following on alternate picking:

Last week's lesson on Pick Sweeping has been moved to the archive thread here:
Last edited by garett at Jan 20, 2003,
Ace's Accordion Countdown
Join date: Dec 2002
10 IQ
These are great! Keep em' coming
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Join date: Nov 2001
381 IQ
Maybe that's why I can't do it right!
I use a .73 Jim Dunlop pick!
(Or maybe because I've never had a teacher and I can't really play)
So, do you recommend buying a thick pick?
Bored with Sex
Join date: Dec 2002
171 IQ
I play with Dunlop .60 or Fender Mediums and I'm decent at alternate picking. I taught myself. SO does it really help to have thick pick? I don't like them I odn't know i started out with really then and have worked to where I really don't like the thick stuff so I was wondering if it would help.

Oh and keep them coming.
I listen to music and I don't need your opinions about what I listen to.
UG Addict
Join date: Aug 2002
1,272 IQ
Thick picks are hard to get used to at first because they don't give as much and they feel very awkward. However I strongly recommend using a thick pick.

You get much better string control with them and you don't hear the pick "clack" against the strings either.

So go out and get a couple 1.5mm and 2.0mm. You'll probably wanna use the 1.5 first because it's closer to home and then eventually you'll find that the 2.0 actually feels better.

Join date: Dec 2001
315 IQ
I think pick thickness depends on what you like or not. I use a .73mm for ALL my playing. I used to have a 1mm pick when i started out playing. I didn't like it, so i went back to my .60mm picks. After a while i tried the .73mm and i used those ever since.
And it doesn't stop me from playing fast.

It all depends on how you feel with the pick.
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